A vote made in one of the last meetings of this term of Waterloo regional council is causing some controversy.

On Tuesday, the 16-member council decided whether or not to give themselves benefits for life, courtesy of taxpayers.

The final vote was 9-7 in favour of the benefit package.

Several times during the meeting, councillors expressed discomfort about voting on extending on their benefit package on what was one of their last days on the job.


Municipal councillors are tasked with voting on their own pay and benefits. Typically this would be done through a councillors compensation committee where options would be brought forward and there would be a discussion. During the meeting on Tuesday, Chair Karen Redman, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Coun. Jim Erb voiced concerns that the regular process was not followed in this case and more debate was needed.

“It’s unusual for us to be dealing with this now,” said outgoing councillor Sean Strickland.

Other councillors explained that they never got around to it because of the pandemic.

“Council remuneration review is probably due or overdue, quite honestly,” said outgoing Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky.


Currently, members are paid out 100 per cent for health services while they’re a member of regional council. Once their term is finished, the coverage ends.

The motion approved Tuesday will see benefits extended until death. Those include dental, life insurance, supplementary health costs, and out-of-province health insurance. It will cover up to $2,400 for a single person and $6,700 for a family.

Councillors will be eligible after serving one term and after they reach the age of 55.

The motion was approved 9-7. Those in favour were: Dave Jaworsky, Geoff Lorentz, Helen Jowett, Joe Nowack, Karl Keifer, Kathryn McGarry, Les Armstrong, Michael Harris and Sean Strickland. Those opposed were: Karen Redman, Berry Vrbanovic, Elizabeth Clarke, Jim Erb, Sandy Shantz, Sue Foxton and Tom Galloway.


Sue Foxton, who was acclaimed as mayor for North Dumfries in the municipal election, was one of the seven who voted against the motion.

“This is a tough one because I would love to have benefits for life, and I think we all would,” she said. “But is this the economy to be doing this in? It’s an ongoing hit forever and the number of retiring councillors each year puts a further burden on to it.”

Karen Redman, who was re-elected chair for regional council, also voted against the benefits package. She said she made the decision not based on the content of the motion, but the lack of public discussion.

“I think there is room to review that, but I would like to see community input and I would like to see rigorous discussion,” Redman explained.

Those who support the benefits package said it’s an investment in the future.

“We need to make sure we attract the best and brightest to represent our community,” said outgoing councillor Helen Jowett.

“It’s time that we properly remunerate our politicians,” added Kathryn McGarry, who lost Cambridge’s mayoral race to Jan Liggett. “We give them some dignity at the end of their career and we recognize what they have given in order to step in and do a life of public service.”

Supporters also said the benefits package is in line with other municipalities, who have also made the decision to increase pay and benefits.

At the council meeting, Coun. Jim Erb brought up the fact that benefit packages for most regional employees end at the age of 65. That means council gave themselves a better benefits package than many of the people who work for the region.

Additionally, a staff report showed the City of Toronto is the only other municipality with a benefit package lasting until the end of life.


The motion passing was a tough pill to swallow for some on council.

“For one of the last acts of this committee, and this council, to be something ultimately impacting this council is something in the present form I can’t support,” said newly re-elected Kitchener mayor Berry Vrbanovic.